Disney’s The Little Mermaid Star Halle Bailey Addresses Production Delay

Disney's live-action The Little Mermaid star Halle Bailey, who plays undersea princess Ariel in the new movie, says the remake of the 1989 animated film was "really coming together" before production was suspended mid-March amid the coronavirus crisis. The Little Mermaid re-imagining was just nine days away from its March 21 shooting start when Disney halted production in London, also delaying work on another animated to live-action reboot, Peter Pan & Wendy, as well as a new Home Alone and Josh Gad's Shrunk. Despite filming being postponed indefinitely, Bailey does not expect the scheduling shift to impact the film's star-studded cast:

"I mean, the whole world is kind of on pause. I was in London since the beginning of the year, and about to start filming, and of course this pandemic has caused everybody to slow down," Bailey told Entertainment Tonight over video chat with sister Chloe, the other half of music duo Chloe X Halle. "I actually welcomed it because I was really missing my sister. She was here in LA, I was in London, so I was happy to get back to her."

"I'm just so very excited for when we start back again. It's really coming together," Bailey continued. "I just feel honored every day, even thinking about it or talking about it, I'm like, 'What the heck? That's really happening.'"

The singer-actress also shot down concerns the delay in filming might force changes to the film's cast, which has so far set Jacob Tremblay as Flounder, Awkwafina as Scuttle, Daveed Diggs as Sebastian, Jonah Hauer-King as Prince Eric and Melissa McCarthy as sea witch Ursula.

"They're beautiful humans, inside and out, and everybody's already like a family," Bailey said.

Asked if Chloe X Halle might provide original music for the film, joining the music to be provided by original Little Mermaid composer Alan Menken and Lin-Manuel Miranda, Bailey said, "We'll have to see!"

When Bailey was announced as lead, director Rob Marshall said in a statement it was "abundantly clear that Halle possesses that rare combination of spirit, heart, youth, innocence, and substance — plus a glorious singing voice — all intrinsic qualities necessary to play this iconic role."

Jodi Benson, who voiced Ariel in the 1989 film, defended Bailey's casting after the actress encountered backlash for being cast as a character originally depicted as white.

"I think that the spirit of a character is what really matters. What you bring to the table in a character as far as their heart, and their spirit, is what really counts," Benson said during a 2019 convention appearance. "And the outside package — cause let's face it, I'm really, really old — and so when I'm singing 'Part of Your World,' if you were to judge me on the way that I look on the outside, it might change the way that you interpret the song. But if you close your eyes, you can still hear the spirit of Ariel."

Disney has not set a release date for The Little Mermaid.

Photo credit: Kevin Winter / Getty Images